United States v. Stoker, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 11-60754

Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence on two counts of retaliating against and threatening a witness, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1513(e) and 876(c). The court found that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant on both counts. However, because his crime of retaliation could not be a crime of violence under the career offender guideline, the court misapplied the longest noted guidelines range. Accordingly, the court affirmed the conviction, vacated the sentence, and remanded for resentencing.


Read the Opinion here at ca5.uscourts.gov


United States v. Cervantes, et al, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 11-41385

Defendants were convicted on charges stemming from a sting operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Defendants worked with an undercover agent to plan an armed home invasion with the aim of stealing a large quantity of drugs. On appeal, defendants challenged their convictions and sentences on a number of grounds. The court held that the district court's only error occurred when it applied a two-level sentence enhancement to the drug conspiracy charge that should not have been applied. Defendants' other arguments lacked merit. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for resentencing.


Read full Opinion here



State of Louisiana v. Manuel Ortiz, Supreme Court of Louisiana, Docket No. 11-KP-2799

Respondent Manuel Ortiz was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death for the 1995 for the killing of his wife. The State urged jurors to find that Respondent was involved in a murder-for-hire scheme motivated by his desire to collect on an insurance policy taken out on the wife. Post-conviction relief proceedings stretched out over years. One of the allegations Respondent raised on appeal involved prosecutorial misconduct by a former assistant district attorney. The litigation took place against the background of the assistant DA's subsequent but unrelated legal difficulties which resulted his disbarment and imprisonment on federal charges. The district court ultimately denied respondent the post-conviction relief he sought, effectively rejecting specific claims that the assistant DA had suppressed certain exculpatory evidence and suborned perjury, but vacated Respondent's death sentence. Both Respondent and the State appealed the district court's decision. With no evidence that any prosecutorial decision made before or during the guilt or sentencing stages of trial stemmed in whole or part from any pecuniary interest in the insurance proceeds relating to the victim's death (including the decision to charge Respondent with his wife's murder), the Supreme Court concluded that the district court erred in vacating Respondent's death sentence. Accordingly, the Court reversed the appellate court's decision and reinstated respondent's death sentence. 


Read full Opinion here at lasc.org


United States v. Andres, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, No. 11-40783

Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. On appeal, defendant contended that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence and in applying a two-point sentencing enhancement for use of a minor to commit his crime. Because the officer's continued search and seizure beyond the scope of the initial traffic stop were justified by additional reasonable suspicion, the district court did not err in concluding that the scope of the stop was reasonable. Because the court found that the district court did not err in refusing to suppress the drug evidence, the court did not reach the remaining plain error factors. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in applying the U.S.S.G. 3B1.4 enhancement where defendant's choice to drive a truck containing over twenty kilograms of cocaine and a four-year-old girl from Laredo to Chicago constituted an "affirmative act" involving a minor in the offense. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.


Read full Opinion here


United States v. Fraga, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, No. 12-40302

Defendant appealed his sentence and lifetime term of supervised release following a guilty plea to failing to register as a sex offender. The court found that the sentencing judge adequately explained her reasons for rejecting defendant's mitigating evidence and imposing an upward variance on the term of imprisonment. Therefore, defendant's sentence was procedurally reasonable. Likewise, the court held that the 27 months of imprisonment was substantively reasonable where the sentencing judge did not abuse her discretion by determining that defendant's willingness to cooperate did not mitigate his offense or criminal history, and in giving significant weight to defendant's criminal history and its characteristics. The court held, however, that the order regarding the lifetime term of supervised release must be vacated because the sentencing judge did not give reasons for her decision.


Read full Opinion here


United States v. Gutierrez, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, No. 12-50028

Defendant was arrested and charged with threatening to kill the President, a former President, and a federal law enforcement officer. On appeal, defendant challenged an order of the district court directing the BOP to involuntarily administer psychiatric medicine to him for the purpose of restoring his competency to stand trial. The court found that the BOP satisfactorily complied with the 1992 version of CFR 549.43(a)(5), which required that a psychiatrist hearing officer "determine whether treatment or psychotropic medication was necessary in order to attempt to make the inmate competent for trial." In light of Sell v. United States, the court affirmed the district court's order approving involuntary medication for the purpose of restoring defendant to competency.


Read full Opinion here


Rodriguez v. Holder, Jr., United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, No. 10-60763 

Petitioner, a native and citizen of Mexico, petitioned for review of the decision of the BIA that he was removable for having been convicted of an aggravated felony. The IJ concluded that petitioner's conviction for attempted sexual assault under Texas Penal Code section 22.011 was a crime of violence as defined in 18 U.S.C. 16(b) because the offense presented a substantial risk of the use of physical force against another. When petitioner appealed the IJ's order of removal, the BIA dismissed the appeal. Because the record did not establish that petitioner was convicted of an aggravated felony, as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43), the court granted his petition and vacated the order of removal.


Read full Opinion here


United States v. Resendiz-Moreno, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, No. 11-51139

Defendant plead guilty to illegal reentry into the United States. On appeal, defendant contended that the district court erroneously enhanced his sentence based on his conviction under Georgia Code16-5-70(b), which the district court concluded was a crime of violence. The court vacated and remanded for resentencing, holding that the statute under which defendant was convicted did not require a showing of physical force.


Read full Opinion here



United States v. Roussel, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 11-30908

Defendant, a New Orleans Police Department Captain and Traffic Division commander, was convicted of crimes related to his involvement with a scheme to defraud Entergy, a New Orleans-based utilities provider. The court held that the district court's issuance of the deliberate ignorance instruction was erroneous, but the error was harmless; the district court correctly recognized that the standard Rule 404(b) instruction to the jury on "other acts" would need to be modified; to the extent the introduction of the Rule 404(b) evidence was erroneous, the doctrine of invited error applied; there was no Confrontation Clause violation nor abuse of discretion in limiting defendant's counsel's cross-examination of the codefendant; the district court did not clearly err in applying either the public official sentencing guidelines enhancement or the high-level or sensitive position enhancement; the district court erred in finding more than one bribe, and it should have therefore declined to apply the corresponding two-level sentencing guidelines enhancement; the district court erred in its calculation of the expected benefit; the district court's consideration of the 30-year statutory maximum was improper but it was harmless; and the sentencing guidelines enhancement errors were not harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the conviction and vacated and remanded for resentencing.


Read full Opinion here



New Orleans, LA - As required by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the New Orleans Police Department is issuing a public advisory regarding a sobriety checkpoint that will be conducted tomorrow night.


The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint in the Orleans Parish area beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M., and will conclude at approximately 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation available if requested, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc.


Superintendent of Police Ronal Serpas said, “I would like to remind all drivers to always drink responsibly and use a designated driver.”


Super Lawyers magazine has named New Orleans, Louisiana attorney Stephen Hébert a Rising Star in Criminal Defense for 2013.  While up to five percent of Louisiana lawyers are named to Super Lawyers, no more than 2.5 percent are named to the Rising Stars list.


Regarding the selction process, a survey is conducted where lawyers are asked to nominate the best attorneys who are 40 or under, or who have been practicing for 10 years or less. They are instructed to nominate lawyers they have personally observed in action — whether as opposing counsel or co-counsel, or through other firsthand courtroom observation.


In addition to the general survey, an attorney-led research team subsequently reviews the credentials of potential candidates and assigns points based on a set of defined evaluation criteria. The research staff also confirms that nominees are properly licensed, in good standing with the state licensing agency, and, when possible, that they have no history of disciplinary action that would warrant removal from the list.


Lastly, the point totals from the general survey and research process are then added to arrive at a final tally. The lawyers are ranked by point totals and those with the highest point totals are named to the Rising Stars list. No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are named to the list. To ensure a diverse and well-balanced list, the research staff considers factors such as firm size, practice area and geographic location.


Stephen D. Hébert has been named by New Orleans Magazine as one of New Orleans' top lawyers in criminal defense for 2012.


Read the full story here at myneworleans.com


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